This post was supposed to be on A Gay Guide to Small Town Beefcake
The down-side: lots of movies. And Bob and I have different tastes. If I have to sit through one more Marvel superhero feeling angst....
For Christmas, we each got to choose a movie. Bob chose Logan (Wolverine from the X-Men feeling angst and finally dying, along with just about everybody on the cast list, including people introduced and given a back story for no other reason than to be killed). I chose Parallel (2020), about "four friends who discover a doorway to parallel worlds."
Oh, boy, parallel worlds! Maybe they'll find one where the British won the Revolutionary War, or the South won the Civil War, or there was no Industrial Revolution, or Hillary won the 2016 election.
Or maybe they'll find a whole community of parallel-world-hoppers, and have to stop the Big Bad who is causing havoc across the multiverse.
No such luck. The differences are tiny. A children's book has character names spelled differently. Ryan Gosling starred in Frankenstein.
Boo! But it was my Christmas choice, and I paid to rent it, so we kept watching. Maybe there would be a gay subtext, or == dare I hope -- a gay character.
We start off with an intriguing scene: A middle-aged photographer is accosted in her house by a masked stranger, who kills her, then takes off the mask: it's her! Then the doppelganger climbs into bed next to her husband.
Then things go downhill.
We are introduced to the four friends, app developers -- their latest project, Meter Maid, allows you to sell your primo parking space to other people who are driving around looking (in big cities where you spend 45 minutes looking and end up parking two miles away, that would be a godsend). They discover a magic mirror leading to almost-identical parallel worlds, and use it to their advantage.
3. Josh (Mark O'Brien) has a gay-subtext buddy-bond with Noel, but it is overwhelmed by his goal: he has sex with the parallel-world Girl Next Door. (He couldn't have sex with her counterpart in his own world because of her jealous boyfriend). Spoiler alert: Things go terribly wrong.
Gay Characters: No
Heterosexism: They discuss the bodaciousness of ladies quite often, and the last-scene falling-in-love comes out of nowhere.
Merry Christmas: Any movie that comes out in December with no "Haave youuurself" in the soundtrack is a good movie.
Prologue: Big City, night. A woman is ballet-dancing on a high ledge. Yipes!
She's wearing a nightgown. Butt shot. Yipes!
A hooded figure comes in and pushes her off the ledge. Shce continues to ballet-dance on the way down. Yipes!
Scene 1: Neveah walks past the police tape and into a scary old brownstone: the Archer School of Ballet. Whoops, it's all modernistic steel-and-glass on the inside. No way the interior and exterior are the same building.
Meanwhile, school owner Madame Du Bois and a reporter discuss the "accident" last week (wait -- why is the police tape still up?). She greets Neveah and tells the reporter: "We helped her escape her dead-ened life in Compton." Gee, racist much? "She's going to fill the shoes of Cassie Shore" The girl who died? Did Madame Du Bois anticipate her death?
Neveah goes to Alan to get her bone alignment checked. Underwear shot ! Gross!
A matron shows her her dorm room and goes over the schedule: academics in the morning, dance in the afternoon, lights out at 10:00 pm. And the rules: no smoking, drinking, getting too skinny, or sex with boys or girls.
Later Blond Twink Shane points out the hot dancer Caleb (Damon J. Gillespie), the boyfriend of the dead girl. Or maybe it's Navil. I can't really tell. "And a psycho: Word on the street is he pushed her."
Scene 3: Blond Twink Shane takes Neveah to the supply room to get new shoes: the famous shoes worn by Deliah Whitlaw! Suddnely Mean Girls Bette and June come in and grab Neveah's leg. A lot of grabbing at this school! "Your arches aren't basing right."
Then they lash out at Shane: "Have fun mentoring your new petit rat?"
I thought they were insulting Neveah, but the term just means "new dancer."
The guy's girlfriend just died. He's the prime suspect in her murder. And they criticize his dancing?
They kiss. Shane is shocked. A dancer dating her choreographer! Scandalous!
Scene 6: Neveah unpacks while Cassie the Dead Girl narrates: "Something always hurts. You're pushing your body beyond what it was meant to do." She finds a picture of the dead girl in Paris -- torn in half! Who was in the other half?
Scene 7: The Mean Girls are watching Neveah's audition tape and making snarky comments. Suddenly Neveah is right there! "We were just curious about how terrible your dancing is." Neveah counters: "I'm better than you, and I'm coming for you." Ruh-roh.
Scene 8: Madame Du Bois is yelling at the cop, Monique, for "exploiting a tragic accident." Neveah comes in: "You will be attending the Donor's Ball tonight. They will want to know if you are worth the investment. Here are some things you will say to them."
Meanwhile, Shane goes back to his room, but there's a jockstrap hanging from the doorknob -- his roommate, Orem, is screwing someone. So he waits outside while Orem and Mean Girl Bette get naked -- nice boy butt for a change. During sex, they discuss who will be paired up for the pas-de-deux. Wow, these people never stop thinking about dancing!
The Matron comes by, but Shane stalls her long enough for the two to get dressed and pretend to be doing homework.
Scene 9: The Donor's Ball. Not as classy as I expected. All boy-girl couples. Ramon the Choreographer gets a text: "I know what you did! You are finished" Uh-oh.
Neveah runs into Alan the Bone Alignment Guy, and complains about "the sadistic jerk" who teaches the dance class. Turns out that he is Alan's husband. Whoops! But that's ok, Alan knows that he's a sadistic jerk.
Madame Du Bois offers Ramon the Choreographer a job at the ballet school. To sweeten the deal, she offers a full-length ballet commissioned by the City Ballet Company. But he still refuses: "I'm no longer your boy toy."
Scene 10: At dinner, Mean Girl June s criticized by her rich mother: "Your shoulders are too bony! You have to eat more! What's your role in the ballet showcase? Make principal dancer, or it's off to law school!" Girl counters: "Don't worry, I'll get it, now that Cassie isn't around to steal my spotlight. I'm glad she's dead!"
Meanwhile, Neveah rejects the safe, respectful script that Madame Du Bois prepared: "The girls here are tough. I mean, back in the hood I saw some rough stuff go down, but this shit be crazy!" Madame Du Bois is upset.
Scene 11: After a few more insults, Neveah goes outside and texts a boy named Ty: "It's not working! I hate it here! I want to come home!" Nabil and Shane show up to encourage her.
Scene 12: The Cop is walking through the Loop in in downtown Chicago (around the corner from the Palmer House, where I've gone for a conference every November for the last six years (not including pandemic year). She grabs Mean Girl June: "You were Cassie's roommate. You must be upset over her death." Well, no, I'm actually delighted that she's not standing in my way.
The investigation is officially over, but the Cop went up to the roof today and found scuff marks -- Cassie was resisting. She was pushed off the roof. A murder!
Why didn't the police notice that right away?
"And the killer will probably strike again, so let me know if you see anything suspicious."
Come on -- this isn't a serial killer show! Cassie was killed by a rival or ex-lover. No one else is in danger!
Scene 13: The Ball is over, but hot guys in their underwear are frolicking in the pool. And a few girls, I guess. Neveah gets naked and jumps in, while Mean Girl Bette stares.
Scene 14: Shane and Omar, naked on the couch. Shane tries kissing him, but Omar won't do that -- too much like romance. They're just "helping each other out." They discuss the development of their external obliques. While having sex!
Gay Characters: Gay marreid couple are instructors, Shane and closeted Omar.
Everybody Has a Motive: Yes.
Discussions of Dancing at Inappropriate Times: 6
My Grade: B+
That's the premise of Cougar Town (2009-2015), which Bob and I just started watching on Amazon Prime. Jules (Courtney Coxm who had just finished playing a young adult on Friends) is in her 40s and recently divorced , though I'm not sure why: her ex-husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt, above) is her best friend, always stopping over to offer advice on the crisis du jour.
She has a great job as a high-power realtor, selling McMansions to noveau-riche Florida couples.
Her best friend (Christa Miller), who lives next door with her husband (Ian Gomez) and new baby, is constantly inviting her over for "wine and Scrabble."
Sounds like a perfect life. So, if this were a musical, what would Jules' "I want" song be about? Sex.
I want to get laid today, or next week, or sometime before May.
But I'm 40 -- yuck! And gross! And all the men my age are broken, married, or gay.
So, why not date guys in their 20s? Because then everybody will make fun of her. She makes fun of the "cougars," who date guys young enough to be their sons.
Complications ensue: ex-husband and son catch her giving Matt a blow job by the pool (ex: "Hey, you told me you didn't like that!")..
So when they begin a relationship, Jules insists that they sneak around: Matt hides until after her son leaves for the night with his friend Ryan (Lil J McDaniel), and has to leave himself at 5:00 am, before any of the neighbors wake up and see him.
In the second episode, Jules is upset because she has no "war stories" about her wild 20s: she got pregnant and married at age 22 (no wild college days)? So she goes out for a wild night, only to find that she's too old to stay up until 3:00 am, she gets drunk on two beers, and trying an athletic sexual position throws her back out.
So, is it ok for people in their 40s to play Scrabble, watch tv, and go to bed by 9:00 pm, or are you supposed to be hanging out at the bars into your 60s? I don't understand what this show is getting at.
In a subplot, Jules accidentally used a sexy picture for her realtor signs, and a junior high kid (Tyler Steelman) keeps stealing them to masturbate to (why does he need a roomful?). Jules finds this extremely embarrassing, and tracks him down to yell at him. What's the problem? She has no control over who finds her attractive.
Rich People: These people are all so affluent that their problems seem trivial, but that may be the pandemic talking.
White People: The map in the opening seems to be zeroing in on Fort Myers, Florida, where 34% of the population is white, but here, Hispanic people do not exist. Two minor characters are black: Travis's best friend and the bouncer at the club (Gregory Hinton), to whom Jules says "Wow, you are really black!"
Gay People: No. Several cast members have played gay characters in other series, but here, everyone seems obsessed with heterosexual sex except Travis. But his main job is to be embarrassed by his mother, so he didn't really have time in the two episodes I watched.
Beefcake: Tons. There are two shots of Courtney Cox in bikini underwear, but other than that, it's all shirtless and underwear-clad men all the time.
My Grade: The problems of rich white heterosexuals in 2009, which seems like ages ago. I would have put up the lack of gay and ethnic minority representation back in the day, but not anymore. Meh.
Scene 1: Creede, Colorado 1884. A stark, foggy landscape. Howling wind. Ugly Moustache Guy and his posse ride into town. All of the men have been killed -- some hanged, some shot, and some in a train wreck. A woman kneels by a body, singing hymns.
So the town wasn't built as a women-only lesbian feminist commune. All of the men were killed.
Meanwhile, Young Guy (Jack O'Connell) rides up to an isolated ranch house. He's been shot in the neck. A woman and her preteen daughter take care of him.
Meanwhile, Scary Old Guy and his possee knock on the door of Elijah Graham, M.D. (Wait -- I thought there were no women in town... So everyone was killed except the town doctor?). He's been shot in the arm, and it will have to be amputated. He introduces himself as Frank Griffin, and says "Don't worry, I won't die. I've seen my death, and this isn't it."
I'm lost. Who are these people? And for a town with no men, there certainly are a lot of men.
Scene 2: An elderly Paiute woman treats Young Guy by burning his wounds. Gross! But at least he has a shirtless shot.
Meanwhile, Yet Another Man in the Town Without Men awakens in an Indian village, with mud or something covering his eyes. Grosser and grosser! He walks out of the hut nude -- nice butt and flash of penis -- and complains that the cure isn't working.
Meanwhile, Elijah has finished amputating the arm of Scary Old Guy (yes, we see the bloody arm).
And at the Ranch, Young Guy wakes up and tries to dress.
Pan out to the tombstone. Sheriff's wife died in 1882, two years before the town lost all its men. Now we just need to meet Trudy to find out how much time has passed.
I'm actually cheating. This is the second time I've gone through this episode. The first time, I had no idea what was going on. The second time, I'm stopping the streaming and taking notes, and paying attention to seemingly trivial details, and I think I've almost got it figured out.
Scene 3: Sheriff rides into town, where women are working as barbers and carpenters. They don't seem to like him very much.
Meanwhile, Young Guy goes outside and gets introduced: Alice Fletcher, her Paiute mother-in-law, and her son Truckee (sorry, they have long hair, so I thought they were a girl -- besides a town with only women)
Sheriff goes home, where Middle Aged Woman berates him for not greeting the Little Girl, who is deaf (I'll bet one of them is his daughter Trudy!) He berates her for wearing Albert's pants and hat -- a woman wearing men's clothes looks ridiculous. Women do all of the masculine-coded jobs in town, and you're worried about costume?
The cure didn't work -- it just gave him an erection.
Aha! The woman is Aunt Maggie, so the deaf girl must be Trudy, so it's been about five years since Wife died, or two years since the men were all killed.
Scene 4: Scary Old Guy and his possee invade a church. (Hey, there are men in the congregation! I thought....).
He berates them for committing adultery, fornicating, and not Loving Thy Neighbor. If they don't change their ways, Roy Goode will come and kill them all. (I guess Roy Goode is like Krampus)
Scene 5: Night. Alice from the Ranch is teaching Truckee to read. Later she goes out to the barn and tells Young Guy that as soon as he's well, he's got to leave. But he proves that he's good with horses, so she changes her mind.
Meanwhile, Ugly Moustache Guy from Scene 1 and his posse are scouring the hills, looking for Krampus, aka Roy Goode (probably Young Guy).
Back at the Ranch: a young woman shows up with her baby, which has scarlet fever, and there's no doctor in town (What about Elijah? Is the in a different town from the women-only town?). Alice agrees to use Paiute medicine.
Young Guy asks how Alice, the Paiute woman, and Truckee ended up on the ranch, and she tells a long, convoluted story (good, the plot's not complicated enough yet!) about how she came to town to meet her fiancee, but on the way back to the ranch, they were caught in a tidal wave, and he was killed. That doesn't really answer the question. And Truckee is obviously from a second marriage, so there's another dead husband, no doubt with another complicated back story.
He's looking for Frank Griffin -- the Scary Old Guy who got his arm amputated. He gives us a plot dump about what happened in Creede (aha, a different town from the wonen-only town, just to make things confusing!):
Scary Old Guy and his possee tried to rob a train, but Krampus, aka Roy Goode (aha!) arrived and stole the money. He also shot Scary Old Guy in the arm (aha!).
Ok, so we have three towns:
1. Creede, where everybody was murdered. They made it look like men only in Scene 1 in order to confuse us.
2. Unnamed town with Elijah and the church.
3. Unnamed town with no men except the Sheriff , the Undertaker who plays chess with him, and the unnamed cowboy with the bulge. What happened to the men? Maybe the tidal wave that killed Alice's fiancee?
I went back and searched for the name of Town #3. If you freeze frame when Sheriff enters, you see the name on a building in the distance -- LaBelle. Or it could be the name of a store.
Scene 7: At the taven, the Marshall discovers what happened to almost all of the men in Town #3 (LaBelle, probably) -- mining accident. Nothing to do with the dead people in Scene 1 or the tidal wave in Alice's story.. Then why did I sit through all of those plotlines twice?
Scene 8: Sheriff rides up to the Ranch to ask about the stranger Alice has living with her. Krampus admits to being Roy Goode, who stole the train money from Scary Old Guy, so his posse would chase him and not kill everyone in the town. A noble act, but Sheriff arrests him anyway.
If we have a sheriff, why do we need a marshall, too? They have the same job.
Last scene: Marshall looks down on a town (I think LaBelle) and says "God help you folks."
God help us for sitting through this twie, plus freeze framing, to figure out what's going on. Why three towns, and the one you think it is, it isn'? Why two tragedies -- or three, if Alice's tidal wave is something different. A marshall and a sheriff/ Two bad guys, of whom one might not be bad? Why reduplicate the complexity? Thisi isn't entertainment, it's homework.
And where are the lesbians?